It is 1776. Maggie Diele is twelve years old and she and her family are traveling through the Appalachian Mountains on their way to Kentucke – the newly purchased territory. Leading them through the Cumberland Gap to Boonesborough is Daniel Boone himself.
This new country is struggling some as war with the British has begun. But as dangerous as it is with the potential to encounter British soldiers, the threat from the Indians is still the biggest danger. The settlers witness a massacre with children being horribly killed and the men in the settler’s party keep their guns constantly at the ready.
Being a near-teen, Maggie and her friends don’t always comprehend the dangers around them and when they go out for a hike on the bluff above the nearby river, they don’t notice the Indians who sneak up in a canoe. Though they try to get away and hope they can warn their families, Maggie is captured and fears that her life will soon be over.
I really like the idea of a work of historical fiction for a YA reader. I think if I had more books of this nature available as a young reader I would have appreciated history more. Not surprisingly, since author Lori Roberts is also a history teacher, the history here seems well researched. Four stars for YA history!
The story-telling, however, is a bit on the weak side. Early in the book the word “mayhap” was used a number of times. While this is possibly the correct word (as opposed “maybe,” “possibly,” or “perhaps”) for the time and the location it comes across as extremely unnatural. As a reader it feels like it’s being used to tell us that we’re reading a story set in the past, not as if it’s natural for the characters.
I recognize that this is part of setting the tone and establishing a time, and I did not notice this very stilted, stylized dialog later in the book, though I do feel it’s still written ‘down’ to the middle school age reader. Two and a half stars for style.
There are a couple of moments that are really powerful – specifically, when Maggie learns that her family stopped searching for her and moved on. I would want to make sure my own children understand that this is something we would never do.
Overall, I enjoyed the read as a rather unique experience (historical fiction for a middle grade reader). It is not, however, a book that gets a glowing recommendation because I think it needed a much stronger editing to make this a more approachable book for the average reader.
Looking for a good book? This Dark and Bloody Ground, by Lori Roberts, is targeted to the middle school reader and has some wonderful history from our Revolutionary War era but suffers a little bit from writing down to the readership.
I received a physical copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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This Dark and Bloody Ground
author: Lori Roberts
publisher: Canterbury House Publishing, Ltd
paperback, 208 pages